Skip to main content

A 'fighter' for the cause of environment, preservation of water bodies in Hyderabad

By Sandeep Pandey, Venkatesh Narayanan, Kushagra Kumar*

Dr Lubna Sarwath is a fighter. In a survey conducted by the leading South Indian daily Deccan Chronicle the residents of Hyderabad have highlighted conservation of environment as a priority issue on which they would like their Mayor to focus on and Lubna has dedicated her life to the cause of environment, specifically preservation of water bodies, and that is why she has emerged as the most suitable choice for the Mayor of the city in this survey.
She is, however, the lone candidate representing her Socialist Party (India) for the elections to the posts of corporators in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. For this reason there is also a demand from the people for direct election to the post of Mayor. The GHMC elections have now become very high profile with the entry of Prime Minister, Home Minister and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh as campaigners.
Lubna Sarwath has raised the issue of names of voters appearing multiple times in voter rolls just on the eve of elections and filed a petition in Telangana High Court against the State Election Commission among others pleading for postponement of elections in her ward No 72, Asifnagar, until the voters list is purged. She has also demanded, in the interest of democracy, to make the voters list available to the general public 30 days before the issue of notification for any election.
When she requested for electoral rolls as a candidate it was made available to her on November 27, 2020, four days before polling, at a cost of Rs 3,600 which she was asked to pay in cash. The electoral rolls to all recognized parties are made available free of cost. She has protested against this anomaly and also against cash payment when all other payments are now being made electronically.
In her random survey of electoral rolls for five polling stations out of a total of 61 falling in her ward, Lubna found that 129 names are duplicated, two triplicated and two quadrulplicated. Given that in ward elections sometimes the margin of victory may be just a few hundred votes, this discrepancy is serious.
It is quite bizarre that when she lodged a complaint with the Telangana State Election Commission she was advised to prepare the list of fraudulent voters and hand them over to the on duty polling officers on the day of polling through her agents. The abdication of responsibility by Election Commission, which can be considered its primary duty, to provide defect free voter rolls, raises doubt on the non-partisan nature of its functioning.
She contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and casted her vote in 2016 GHMC elections. When she wanted to contest the 2018 Telangana Assembly elections she found her name missing from voter rolls. She refused to fill the form to add her name to the electoral roll because she didn’t want to state the untruth that her name was to be added anew. She argued that her name was fraudulently removed and must be restored by election officials rather than she be required to fill a form for new addition to the rolls. She won and her name was restored.
Lubna Sarwath holds a PhD from Trisakti University, Jakarta, Indonesia, and has attended a women leadership course at Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore. She has been working in public domain on environmental, political, educational, health and governance issues and will continue to work irrespective of the results of the elections. She combines integrity with courage and passion and professes universal value of harmony among human beings and with nature.
Hyderabadis deserve a governance and development that is corruption free, pollution free, fully-transparent, all time responsive and not avoid people's questions
Lubna Sarwath has filed many cases in National Green Tribunal and other courts for preservation of water bodies not just in Hyderabad but also in Nellore, Khammam and Karimnagar districts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Prominent among these are cases for protection of Hussain Sagar lake, drinking water lakes Usman Sagar and Himayat Sagar. In Karimnagar she took up the issue of vanishing water inside a temple where people take holy dip because the pond which supplied water located outside the temple was being encroached upon for promotion of tourism.
No ward committee meetings have been held for the past five years -- sabotaging the entire spirit of the decentralisation of power through Urban Local Bodies as mandated by the 74th Constitutional amendment. Lubna wants all decisions related to development works be taken in ward meetings in a transparent manner. Lubna is spearheading a change to bring to the forefront the real issues of the people, and addressing them through concrete legislative and budgetary initiatives.
She is the founder of a local grassroots organisation determined to make the Right to Education and adult literacy a reality for even the most marginalized residents of the ward. She continuously interacts with authorities to keep students in school and engaged -- and this initiative has spread by word of mouth.
The challenges she has faced in her activism are multifarious. The stark inequalities and power imbalances found among the residents of the ward makes change difficult. There are upper and middle class owned swanky apartments adjoining sprawling slums with little or no sanitation facilities. The development process of the government has completely disowned the poorer residents, whose cause Lubna advocated vociferously.
Lubna says that advertised government schemes are of no help to ward residents. For example, a Rs 1 lakh grant to female girls at the age of 18 seems directed at allowing the payment of their dowry rather than positively effecting social change by helping young women achieve their educational and financial goals. A recent flood-relief financial hand-out from the government was hijacked and corrupted to buy residents’ votes with a fraction of the money actually given.
Dr Lubna’s priority is to empower the citizens of these localities. As she points out, with the ULB's failure to implement grounds-up decision making, budgetary allocations are done in an opaque manner, encouraging nepotism and allowing contractors to enrich themselves. As a result, residents lack even basic facilities, from access to clean water and reliable healthcare to public hygiene including a working drainage system. Lubna is determined to put the voices of the marginalised at the center of her plan for the future of the community.
Her commitment to bringing real change and ensuring complete transparency in her work makes her a unique and highly promising candidate. Her resolve to make a difference comes not just from the fact that she is herself a resident of the ward but also because she already has plenty of dirt under her fingernails. 
She brings a kind of hands-on knowledge of the issues of the ward that other candidates simply do not have. She also brings an evidence-based, transformative plan -- which draws on real social, economic and demographic data rather than merely being a Public Relations exercise.
Hyderabadis deserve a governance and development that is corruption free, pollution free, fully-transparent, all time responsive and not avoid people's questions.
---
*Sandeep Pandey is vice president of Socialist Party (India), Venkatesh Narayanan is software technology management professional, Kushagra Kumar is a student

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Corporatizing Indian agriculture 'to enhance' farmer efficiency, market competitiveness

By Shashank Shukla*  Today, amidst the ongoing farmers' protest, one of the key demands raised is for India to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Let us delve into the feasibility of such a move and explore its historical context within India's globalization trajectory.

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Livelihood issues return to national agenda ahead of LS polls: SKM on Bharat Bandh

Counterview Desk  Top farmers' network, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has claimed big success of Grameen Bharat Bandh and industrial /sectoral strikes, stating, the “struggle reflected anger of farmers, workers and rural people across India”, adding, the move on February 16 succeeded in bringing back peoples’ livelihood issues in the national agenda just ahead of the general election to the Lok Sabha.

How retraints were imposed on academic freedom on the IIM-Ahmedabad campus

By Sandeep Pandey*  This is the seventh consecutive academic year when I would have gone as a visiting faculty member to the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad to teach an Elective course on Transformational Social Movements to the second year of Post Graduate Programme students. But the invitation has not come so far and it looks like it is the end of my teaching stint at IIM, at least, so long as the Bhartiya Janata Party remains in power at the centre.

Supreme Court Bar Association letter to CJI 'meant to defame' protesting farmers

By Prem Singh*  Have we ceased to be a wakeful and sensitive civil society and instead have become the horns of parties, leaders and governments? Whatever profession we are in, have we lost all respect for our responsibility and dignity?  It is understandable that a pro-corporate government should launch a campaign to defame the farmers from the very first day of its agitation against the government's apathy to their long-pending demands. Because it considers the people of the country, especially the hardworking farmers, labourers, artisans, unemployed and underemployed, not as citizens but as subjects who live at the mercy of the government.  But the professional noblemen of the civil society should defame the farmers in an organizational manner -- this explains our fall as a civil society.  It is a matter of utmost regret that the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association has written a letter to the Chief Justice demanding that he take suo motu cognizance of the “erring” far